Vancouver Sun


2009- NewspaperApril 16th, pE3. Vancouver, Canada

Article text:

HELLO-HELLO, DOLLY: Hoopla surrounded the 50th birthday of Mattel’s Barbie doll this year. But 27-year-old Vancouver doll-maker Marina Bychkova is generating plenty of global magazine covers and glossy pages, too, with European Vogue next on the list. And we’re not talking $30 Barbies here. Siberia-born Bychkova’s hand-made and anatomically correct porcelain dolls start at $1,985, according to her website. Special costumed ones fetch $15,000, as folk like London celebrity designer Julien Macdonald and Louis Vuitton shoe designer Fabrizio Viti snap them up when Bychkova’s fiance and website designer Chad Isley lists them.

“They e-mail me,” Bychkova said of her desirable marketing status. “And, if the doll is still available, I sell it to them. It used to take so long for artists to get known. But nowadays, people know in minutes.”

Emily Carr University graduate Bychkova recalls varsity president Ron Burnett telling first-year students that “after graduation, 96 per cent of you will not be practising artists.”

She said everyone clapped when she replied: “I am in the other four per cent.” She recently returned from Milwaukee, where a two-month exhibition of 40 dolls opened at the Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Arts. Her second and third shows in Berlin will follow, with St. Petersburg in between. “I am much better known in Russian than in Canada,” Bychkova said, possibly because magazines like Athens-published Epsilon and Hungarian Stilus circulate more there.

Her dilemma is how, or even if, to complete the transition from art to industry.

She’s experimenting with casting body parts in resin, but has yet to meet the porcelain-like standards she demands.

Likewise, the elaborate fabric garments and metal-lacework headgear, corsets, capes, skirts and stiletto-heel shoes she makes are hard to duplicate except by hand-work. But she’s got a product the world seemingly wants. Her six-month client waiting list grows longer as word of her prowess spreads.

Take a look at her superb website and ask yourself if hers isn’t an art-to-business dilemma many would kill for.

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